As Tad Boyle told me this morning, the Buffs obviously aren’t losing a 20-point, 10-rebound player this season in Shane Harris-Tunks. But outside of seeing Alec Burks or Cory Higgins go down, this is about as devastating a hit as Colorado basketball could have taken in the preseason.
Harris-Tunks, a 6-11 center, is the best team defender on the roster. He also sets great screens that help Higgins, Burks and others get open shots. And after adding 25 pounds of muscle during the offseason, the Australian was expected to help CU’s rebounding woes and provide the team with a scoring threat in the post.
Now the Buffs will rely on Trey Eckloff to fill the void. Those who follow the Buffs closely know the 6-10 junior has had his moments guarding the likes of Blake Griffin and Cole Aldrich early in his career.
Now Eckloff, the last player to leave the practice court at the Coors Events Center on Monday, will have to play at a high level on a consistent basis if the Buffs are serious about finishing in the top half of the Big 12.
“The thing that I always tell every player is: If you defend and you rebound then you can help this team,” Boyle said. “Trey is a guy who can step out and make shots. So if he defends and rebounds, he can help this basketball team. Right now in practice what I’m looking for is guys who I can trust when I put them on the floor … Trey is certainly capable of doing that.”
The Buffs held a scrimmage against Creighton last Saturday at the Coors Events Center. Coaches are not allowed to discuss what takes place in these closed-door events, which have replaced exhibition games at most programs.
Eckloff said the team held up well a day after learning that Harris-Tunks had in fact sustained a season-ending ACL tear in his left knee.
“We played really well. This is the fifth scrimmage since I’ve been here, and I think it was the best one I’ve been a part of,” Eckloff said. “Creighton was a solid team. We played really well and learned what we need to work on.”
CU will scrimmage at Northern Colorado on Saturday. Should be an interesting homecoming for Boyle, a Greeley native and the Bears’ former head coach.